Published: 07 July 2021

Surrey Foundation Year students win awards for novel business ideas

Start-up ideas involving low-cost computers for rockets and a novel use for discarded face masks were acclaimed Surrey entries. But it was an app promoting work experience opportunities for graduates, from a team of students from our Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, that claimed first prize in the Engineers in Business Competition.

The Engineers in Business Competition saw teams of Foundation Year students from across our Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences (FEPS) devise novel ideas to pitch to industry. Run in collaboration with Student Enterprise, the would-be entrepreneurs worked alongside mentors from across the Faculty, including Dr Judy Lee, Dr Alireza Behnejad and Dr Rob Siddall, to refine and develop their proposals, before presenting them to a panel of experts.

Civil Connect victorious

The winning entry came from a team of five civil engineering students – Niamh Gallagher, Amelia dos Santos, Ilayza Ors, Jamal Omene-Stewart and Aleena Joy. Their business idea, Civil Connect, was an app linking graduates with work experience opportunities.

The quintet collected the first prize of £1,500 and they can also can apply for an Engineers in Business Fellowship. If successful, they’ll be assigned a Sainsbury Management Fellow as a mentor to provide support for a period of time agreed between the mentor and mentees.

Second place in the event and a prize of £1,000 was awarded to Movement Industries.

“We pitched an idea to provide low-cost entry-level flight computers for model rockets. These would be used to collect and record data from the flight of the rocket, fire the parachutes and to land the rocket safely,” says Harvey Nixon, whose six-strong team featured students from physics, electrical and electronic engineering, and aerospace engineering.

“The aim is to create an easier route to becoming involved with model rocketry and engineering by making it more available and affordable to beginners who have an interest in the aerospace field. Our product makes this possible because it saves individuals from research and design time as the rockets are readily available to them at a low cost.”

In third place and collecting £500 was Ecoefficient. Their team of three chemical engineers and one civil and environmental engineering student produced a business case around recycling face masks to make material for road construction.

Building success

Dr Carol Spencely, the FEPS Teaching Fellow who ran the event for the University, adds: “The Engineers in Business Competition injected excitement and challenge into a group coursework assignment for our FEPS Foundation Year students.

“The creativity, passion and drive of the students was illustrated through the business ideas they proposed: ranging from floating eco-villages to a gadget that detects how ripe your fruit is.

“Our teams embraced working remotely to develop their business case and pitch their idea to a panel, while developing communication, presentation, listening, research, time-management, project-management, team-working and numerous other skills.

"These students are destined for great things in their future studies and beyond!”

Student Enterprise Manager Kat Mack also comments: “We know engineers are well-placed to use their technical expertise to create ground-breaking innovations. Sadly, they often lack exposure to the business world and, therefore, may be less likely to take their ideas to market.

“This competition created a buzz around the pitching of ideas as business prospects, obliging students to consider the viability of their concepts. It encouraged teams to think in a more business-like way, creating a future generation of problem-solvers who'll combine technical and business skills to make a difference to society.”

All teams can continue to access support from Student Enterprise to take their ideas forward and they’ll be invited to represent the University at the Engineers in Business Competition National, with the Grand Final taking place on 25 October 2021.


Learn more about studying in our Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

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